How Design Makes Us All Californian

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design, architecture, California

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design, architecture, California
Editor’s note: BOOM!: a Journal of California is published quarterly by the University of California Press. The lead article in the Spring, 2012 Design Issue is Simon Sadler’s wonderful “A Culture of Connection: How Design Makes Us All Californian.” Here, the opening paragraphs; the editors have graciously made the full article available to our readers through JSTOR, the premier on-line compendium of scholarly journals. Just click here and choose “View PDF.” For more information or to subscribe, visit the BOOM! website.

When buyers of an Apple computer product unwrap their purchase, they are met by the legend “Designed by Apple in California”. Why, within the minimal packaging of the product, is this epithet so central? One tech blogger from New York admired the slogan in 2007 as a piece of marketing nostalgia: “Ah,” he wrote, “the way these five words evoke a flurry of happy memories.”

You think of California, not the actual state, with its endless dismal boulevards full of muffler shops and donut stores, but the California of memory: the Beach Boys, the Summer of Love, and the beatniks, a utopian land of opportunity, an escape, where you go when you leave behind the cold winters and your conservative parents back in Cleveland.

The California referred to in the expression “Designed by Apple in California,” the blogger was suggesting, is an idea, an ideal even. And then he considered the alchemical resonance of the word “designed”: “It’s not made. It’s designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.”

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Simon Sadler

Simon Sadler is Professor of Architectural and Urban History in the Art History Program at the University of California, Davis.

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